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People today refer to “tea sets” mainly as teapots, cups, spoons, and other tea utensils. The types of tea sets listed in Tang Dynasty writer Pi Rixiu’s “Ten Odes of Tea Sets” include “tea wells, tea people, tea bamboos, tea baskets, tea houses, tea stoves, tea baking pans, teapots, teacups and boiling teas”. Among them, “Tea Wells” refers to a hollow for planting tea. “Tea People” should not be included in utensils according to modern views. There are many kinds of tea sets which can be classified according to materials, places of origin, prices and purposes. Today we will classify them according to their practicality used in daily life.
What types of tea sets are there? Classified by purpose: 1. Serving Tea Set: usually includes a teapot, tea cups, and saucers; 2. Brewing Tea Set: includes one or more teapots, teacups, and brewing tools; 3. Display Tea Set: includes decorative tea sets such as ornamental tea trays, flower vases and incense burners; 4. Gift Tea Sets: packages of multiple tea sets for special occasions.
Kung Fu Tea Ware
GongFu Cha tea set includes a cover bowl, Cha Hai (also known as Gōngdào cup), fragrance cup, tea cup, tea filter, tea clip, tea tray and tea towel. Gongfu Cha is the most exquisite kind of tea sets for brewing, so it is called Gongfu Cha because the way of brewing with it needs some certain skills. This skill refers to the knowledge of preparing the tea and drinking it. Gongfu Cha has been spread for hundreds of years since its origins in places like Guangdong province. As time went by, this type of teaset was slowly disseminated throughout different areas.
Tea pots have existed before the Tang Dynasty. People in the Tang Dynasty called tea pots “zhu zi”, which means pouring water out from the spout of the pot. According to the Ziyalu, “In the beginning of Yuanhe (806 AD, Emperor Xianzong in Tang Dynasty), wine was still served with wooden bucket and ladle … Zhu Zi, shaped like a flask, with cover, spout and handle.” A flask is a bottle with a small mouth and big belly. The teapot in Tang Dynasty was shaped like a bottle with a large belly for more water and small mouth for making tea. Around the end of Tang Dynasty, people did not like this name and even removed the handle of the teapot, making it look like a “mingping”. Because there was no handle, they also called it “pianti”. Later generations call making tea “dianzhu” which is based on the name “zhu zi” given by people in Tang Dynasty.
In the Ming Dynasty, the art of tea ceremony became increasingly sophisticated, and there was greater emphasis on brewing tea, viewing its color, pouring the liquor and heating water. In order to meet such high standards, tea utensils also needed to be reformed and innovated. For example, in the Ming Dynasty, sand pots began to be valued for making tea. This was a new pursuit of tea art. Sand pots were considered excellent as they did not absorb the fragrance of tea or affect its color. According to The Long Scroll of Things, “The best teapots are made from sand because they neither absorb nor emit any hot steamy vapors”. Everyone knows about Yixing sand pots which became famous during the Ming Dynasty. Historical records show that Gong Chun was the first person who made Yixing sand pots famous. Later on, another potter named Shi Da-Bin created smaller teapots that were “simple but elegant in appearance; exquisite beyond comparison…and incomparable by other more well-known craftsmen” (Huang Hao’s Record). It is said that “the distinguishing feature of Da-Bin’s teapots is the big thumbprint on the handle” (The Illustrated Records).
Teacups and tea bowls
In ancient times, the main tea utensils were “tea bowls” (bowls) and “teacups” made of pottery. Teacups had appeared before the Tang Dynasty. According to “Boya”, it was called “zhan cup”. During the Song Dynasty, it began to be known as “tea cup”. As seen in the poem of Lu You: “Sometimes cane sticks watch stones, and wind stoves put tea cups everywhere”. Modern people often refer to teacups or teacups. Teacup is a small cup used for drinking tea in ancient times, one of the indispensable utensils in the culture of “tea ceremony”. We all know that Chinese tea culture flourished during the Han and Tang dynasties and reached its peak in the Song Dynasty. The teacup also underwent great changes with the prosperity of tea culture.
During the Song Dynasty, teacups were very particular about the color of ceramics, especially in pursuit of the texture, delicate lines and uniform thickness of the cups. According to Song Cai Xiang’s Tea Record: “Tea is white, so it should be served in a black cup. The Jien An cup made by Zhou Hei has rabbit whisker pattern with a slightly thick cup. It can stay hot for a long time and is difficult to cool down. This is the most important product and other products from other places are either too thin or have dark purple colors, which are not as good. Moreover, even talented tea tasters did not use blue and white cups.” From this historical record, we can see that when serving white tea leaves, one should choose a black teacup, showing that people at the time had already paid attention to matching tea utensils. The purpose of this pairing was for better tea color and fragrance. A kind of slightly red black teacup made in Jien An (present-day Jianou in Fujian Province) was regarded as an excellent product by people at that time. Secondly, it can be seen that when evaluating the quality of teacups at that time, they also looked at its surface lines; Jien An’s Ganhei teacup had been refined to a “rabbit whisker” level which showed their high pottery skill. Moreover, we can see “Xie Fire”. Xie Fire means “fire on top”, as stated in Guang Yün; it also means “fire passing through” in Ji Yün”, containing scalding meaning. Here Xie Fire actually refers to the degree of heat emission inside the teacup; during Ming and Qing Dynasties Jiangsu’s Bao Ying and Gao You areas referred Xie Fire as “scalding hands”. The Ganhei teacup produced by Jian An during Song Dynasty was thicker than those produced by other places; thus holding this cup would bring you benefit from its ability to stay hot for a long time before cooling down. Therefore it was viewed as one of the best products among Song Dynasty teacups
Tea sea, also known as tea cup or public cup. After the tea in the teapot is soaked to a suitable concentration, the tea is poured into the tea sea, and then poured into each small teacup to obtain a uniform concentration of the tea soup. A filter can also be placed on the tea sea to filter out tea dregs and tea powder. When there is no special tea sea, it can also be used as a teapot. Its general functions are: containing boiled tea soup, then pouring each cup, so that each cup of tea soup concentration is similar, settling the tea dregs.
Cover the bowl.
A tea bowl or cup cover is composed of three parts: a teacup, a bowl cover, and a tray. Put three grams of tea in the bowl and pour in water. After covering with the lid for five to six minutes, the tea can be consumed. Brewing tea with this method usually only requires one infusion; at most a second infusion can be added afterwards.
Cup of tea.
There is a variety of teacups in different sizes and shapes for different types of tea. Nowadays, the aroma cup that allows people to drink and smell tea at the same time has become increasingly popular. People should choose appropriate teacups based on the shape and color of the teapot to make them look aesthetically pleasing. For easier appreciation of tea soup colors and cleaning, it is best for the inside of the cup to be glazed, preferably in white or light colors. When it comes to requirements for cups, it should be comfortable to grip and hold close to the mouth, and have smooth entry into one’s mouth.
Tea ware is an essential equipment for brewing tea and there are many varieties. Some are essential for most tea brewing and are called basic tea ware, mainly including the following:
1. Kettles: Kettles come in various materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, glass and pottery. The most commonly available ones in the market are the hand-brewed ones.
2. Water storage devices: Thermos bottle. If there is a ready-made tea, the water storage device is not necessary.
Discard utensils: commonly known as a water basin. Plastic buckets, porcelain or pottery can all be used;
4. Tea ware: Teapots used for brewing tea. There are aluminum pots, glass pots, porcelain pots and pottery pots of various types.
5. Tea canister: used to store tea leaves. It is made of paper, bamboo, porcelain, pottery and other materials, provided that there is no strange smell.
6、Tea scoop and Tea caddy: composed of tea scoop and tea caddy. The tea scoop is used for taking out the tea, and the tea caddy is used to store the taken-out tea leaves.
Place tea sets and tea accessories: referred to as tea trays. The shape is mostly rectangular, square, etc.
8. Observing the external appearance and where to put snacks: Small plates are called tea trays. There are small plates made of porcelain, pottery and bamboo.
Go to tea stains and cushions: called teatowel. Mainly made of cotton and linen with strong water absorptivity.
10. Even Cup: An instrument used to distribute tea evenly.
11. Teacup: A small teacup used for drinking tea, mainly made of glass and porcelain.